Business over Tapas Nº 537

Servicio de noticias en lengua inglesa

Actualidad 08/05/2024 Redacción Redacción
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A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

Prepared by Lenox Napier.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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Editorial: 

A local author has written a fascinating book about the revolt of the Moriscos in 1570. These were the times when the defeated Moors who remained in Spain had to become what was called by the Spanish ‘the New Christians’ (eat pork, go to church and all the other things one must do to show one’s fealty). Even so, they were not allowed to own land and their children were obliged to be educated, thanks to strict rules from Felipe II, by Catholic priests. The Moriscos, descendants of Muslims thus forcibly converted to Christianity, faced increasing pressure. These ‘New Christians’ (many still with a copy of the Koran hidden under the bed) remained suspect in the eyes of the authorities, leading to latent tensions and conflicts. Between 1568 and 1571, the Moriscos in the Alpujarras and down towards the Almerian coast rebelled against their treatment.

The book is called El Último Morisco by Diego Ramos.

It has been ably translated into English as ‘The Last Morisco’ (but yet to go to print) by Andy Mortimer, and I’ve been sent a proof to comment and correct as I see fit.

The problems we have found so far – I’m half way through it – are firstly to do with grammatical accents (does the English language accept the odd place or person’s name with an accent?). The British newspaper-guides say ‘no accents’, but we are living here in Spain and, it seems to me, we might as well try and learn things right rather than wrong.  That said, we prefer Malaga to Málaga, Cordoba for Córdoba and for that matter, we use Seville for Sevilla and Orense instead of Ourense.

But then, what of the Spanish ‘n-with-a-squiggle’: the ‘ñ’ that doesn’t even appear on our British keyboard? We have decided that this, the most Spanish of letters, will stay. España, año, and Peñiscola indeed!

A second issue is measurement. Do we talk of leagues, kilometres or miles? What about yards? The Spanish measurements of the time were complicated and they even varied between one place and another. La fanega, a land-measurement, changes violently according to both location and indeed meaning. It was considered in Castilla to be 1000x1000 varas, which was a unit something smaller than a square metre. So, a sort of pint-sized hectare. However, in Galicia and Valencia, Andalucía, the Canaries and Extremadura, the range differed considerably. In short, anything from 5,707m2 down to a pocket-sized 833m2. In some places, it was merely the extent of land necessary to grow a certain amount of grain. The word fanega comes from the Arabic faddãn. The word still appears in old escrituras in Almería (to the horror of any surveyor).

So we think maybe to resort to old English measurements – a pace, a morning’s walk, a day’s ride and so on. After all, it’s not a text-book, it’s a fast-paced novel: indeed the blurb at Amazon says ‘…Focusing on the story of Khalíl and Dídac, two young people whose lives are shaken by the storm of war, El Último Morisco recreates with singular vividness the Spanish universe of the mid-16th century, populated with characters, some despicable and others heroic; with broken families and the corpses of innocent people half buried in wintry ditches…’

The tag says ‘Could history repeat itself?’

The English version will be in print perhaps by September. It is the story of a shockingly bloodthirsty time in Spanish history (although, perhaps not the most, since every now and again along the way, there’s been a revolution here of some sort or another). By chance, I’m currently reading a novel about Madrid in 1936, on the eve of the Civil War.

Things are not looking good.

Perhaps the lesson here is that an occasional violent rebellion is in the nature of this most charming and welcoming nation. 

...

Housing:

From 20Minutos here: ‘The paradox of empty houses: there are four million uninhabited homes in a country where the lack of housing is driving up the prices’. Yes, some of these (often bank-owned) properties are in a poor state of repair, or are in the wrong location; but they all have roofs at least. The majority of these dwellings are located in smaller municipalities with falling numbers of inhabitants explains the article. 

La Voz del Sur brings us another story of a forthcoming eviction. This time, it’s 87-year-old María, who has gamely been paying her rent each month since she moved in to her place in Cádiz in 1967. See, it’s in ‘the tourist area’ and many people come to the little square off her apartment to hear the history of that great city. So the owner says to himself one day – I could convert that place into a tourist let. Like each and every other apartment in that particular block. Poor María has until the end of June to vacate. 

Despite the 90 days in 180 Schengen rule, and despite, too, the calamitous Brexit, ‘Full year figures show UK still head and shoulders above other markets when it comes to buying property in Spain’. An item at Spanish Property Insight says that ‘According to the notaries, 12,470 Spanish property sales involved a British buyer in 2023, down 16.5% on the previous year but 30% ahead of the Germans with 9,611 purchases, down 27% year-on-year. The French were in third place with 8,647 purchases, down 16%’. The largest foreign growth comes from Russian buyers – up last year by 27%.

...

Tourism: 

From elDiario.es here: 'Mass tourism threatens the quality of life in medium-sized cities: “Now the saturation lasts for many months”. The commitment of city councils and autonomous communities to bring in more visitors boosts both the costs of housing and commercial rentals, expelling both traditional neighbours and businesses. The demand for water and other inconveniences multiply'. When it comes to tourism, are the residents irrelevant?

From The Guardian here: ‘Menorca village threatens to close to tourists after an explosion in numbers. Residents of Binibeca Vell say officials have left them to grapple alone with noise and rubbish from a stampede of visitors’. The article says that they could see as many as a million visitors this year, with their selfies, their trash and their hordes’. I remember, when the first hotel opened near us in Mojácar many years ago, finding some Brits in our garden. ‘It all right’, they said, ‘we are just having a look round’.

‘Economist Gonzalo Bernardos joins in the fray: "¡Viva el turismo!" he says, "Spain is a country that has magnificent businessmen and workers in the tourism sector"’. The story and video at LaSexta here.

From El País here (or https://archive.ph/1qVtP ): ‘A new hotel every four days: the effect of the tourism boom in Spain. Between April 1, 2024 and December 31, 2025, no less than 260 hotel openings are planned. Half of these will be concentrated in Madrid, Málaga, Valencia and the Canary Islands’. 

Jeremy Clarkson says of Barajas that ‘the Madrid airport is the stupidest airport in the world. By miles’. As has the story (and who am I to disagree?).

From Forbes here ‘Spain’s Finca La Donaira is reinventing the luxury hotel In Andalucía’, writes their Senior Contributor, who says that ‘I know the difference between expensive travel and the truly luxurious’. It certainly looks very nice in the photos.

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Finance: 

From Bolsamanía here: ‘Unemployment fell by 60,503 people in April, falling to its lowest level since September 2008. The total number of unemployed stood at 2,666,500 people, according to data from the Ministry’. From As here: ‘Spain reaches 21 million workers for the first time with a record number of Social Security affiliates after adding almost 200,000 more employees in the month of April. Unemployment has fallen to 2.66 million’.

The Banco de Sabadell has pulled out of the BBVA offer. ‘It’s not enough’, they say.

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Politics: 

From 20Minutos here: ‘The Partido Popular calls for a mobilization for May 26 in Madrid against the “Catalonian amnesty”, Pedro Sánchez's policy against "fake news" and the "suspicions of corruption" within the PSOE’. The party spokesperson says: ‘The PP will continue to defend an independent justice system, the freedom of the press and equality’. 

Who is Adrián Vásquez? He was the General Secretary of Ciudadanos and an MEP until recently. Now, along with a couple of other ex-MEPs from that party, he is on the Partido Popular list for the upcoming elections in the EU. The philosopher Fernando Savater has also accepted to go on the list. As someone says – it’s odd that Ciudadanos, ‘a party rigorously in the centro’, should all have ended up in the PP. 

One of the changes in the Memory Law in the PP/Vox held regions (to resolve issues from the Civil War, to rebury those executed and to redress long-held grievances) is the introduction in its place of the Concordence Law (to let sleeping dogs lie). The Guardian has ‘New laws proposed by right-wing and far-right regional coalition governments to “whitewash” the Franco dictatorship could contravene international human rights standards, United Nations experts on truth, justice, forced disappearances and killings have warned Spain…’ From Público here, ‘The UN censures the "Concordence Law" of the PP and Vox in Aragón, Castilla y León and the Valencian Community because it goes against human rights rules. The United Nations has sent a report in which it warns of the latest movements of the right and extreme right against the Historical Memory Law and asks for action to be taken in this regard’. Sometimes with Vox, the tail wags the dog.

The Minister of Culture is Sumar’s Ernest Urtasun. Last week, Urtasun announced that the Government will no longer award the National Bullfight Prize, an annual prize worth 30,000€. The last prize-winner (2023) was Julián López, known as El Juli. Unsurprisingly, there has been quite a lot of resistance to this announcement.

The colourful President of Argentina, Javier Milei, is due to visit Spain soon to hitch up with his friend Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox. Getting into the spirit of things before his arrival, and following an accusation by a Spanish government minister of a possible predilection towards controlled substances, Milei let fly with a vitriolic attack on Pedro Sánchez this weekend.  Sánchez, he said in an official statement, has "jeopardized the unity of the Kingdom" because he has agreed "with separatists to bring forward the dissolution of Spain." Furthermore, "He has put Spanish women at risk by allowing the illegal immigration of those who threaten their physical integrity; and he has put the middle class in danger with his socialist policies that only bring poverty and death". El Huff Post has the full story. Meanwhile, campaigning in Catalonia, Santiago Abascal proposes "massive deportations" in the face of the illegal immigration that he says, affects Catalonia and the rest of Spain. EuropaPress has more here

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Catalonia elections May 12: 

From Catalan News here: ‘Polls forecast clear win for Socialists with Junts and Esquerra battling for second place. Uncertainty whether pro-independence or unionist blocs will get enough seats to govern after May 12 ballot’. With graphic.

Feijóo is playing the Race Card in Catalonia (illegal immigrants and so on). He can’t win, says a piece at elDiario.es, but the PP must at least beat the Vox.

…...

Europe: 

From EuroNews here: ‘How exactly will the EU’s new Entry-Exit System work? All your questions answered’.

‘Portugal will eliminate tolls on seven motorways from January, including those that link with Galicia’. La Voz de Galicia reports here.

‘Is Europe really shifting to the right? Life remains pretty normal despite the rise of nationalist political groups’. Gwynne Dyer writes at The Standard here.

Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic 'Schuman declaration' that set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable. Schuman's proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union’. EU information page here

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Health: 

Spain is the country in the European Union with the highest life expectancy at 84 years of age, says El Mundo here. Italy follows just behind. No mention is made in the article of the division between male and female longevity.

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Courts:

From The Olive Press here. ‘Spain issues €81million worth of fines to 17 online gambling sites ‘for serious or very serious infractions’. The biggest penalty of €35 million and a four-year closure was given to the National Organisation of the Spanish and European Disabled (ONDEE), which had been accused of unfair competition by the ONCE charity’. 

From PhocusWire here: The Italian Competition Authority has opened an investigation into Booking.com to determine if the online travel agency is intentionally “reducing the freedom of Italian hotels in setting prices”. In February, during the company’s earnings call, Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel announced that Spanish regulators had filed a draft decision alleging similar wrongdoing and proposed a fine of $530 million…’

elDiario.es proposes some measures to limit lawfare – the process where a judge or a court makes political rather than judicial decisions.

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Media:

Beyond the presumably impartial RTVE, the commercial television companies that dominate the airwaves tend (for obvious reasons) towards the right. Indeed, the conservative channels have their influential TV chat-show hosts (Ana Rosa Quintana, Vicente Vallés, Federico Jiménez Losantos, Pablo Motos and so on) and the left, at LaSexta, to provide some form of balance, have theirs: including the disgraced Antonio Ferreras (here plotting on tape back in 2016 with the since-repentant investigator José Manuel Villarejo (wiki) for any dirt on the wife of Pedro Sánchez). Which is why it’s best to stay with the national TV.

The Spanish version of the American alt right might be the fachosfera. This is described by elDiario.es here as ‘The digital ecosystem of websites, forums, Telegram channels or certain social networks where speeches against multiculturalism, science and the empirical method, feminism, LGTBI rights, social movements or the media are disseminated’. And then, there’s the violence. EPE goes even further, in their article about globally consumed conspiracy theories (and healthy advertising revenues) here.  

Economic figures manipulated by the economist Daniel Lacalle (wiki).

From The Mirror here: ‘Beach bars in popular parts of Spain could become a thing of the past if a new controversial law is approved. The proposed legislation would allow the authorities to seize properties that are either on or close to beaches, whether they be homes, shops, bars or restaurants. The law is designed to protect areas of the coastline that are particularly at risk from climate change and rising sea levels. It is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Ecological Transition in Madrid and would affect homes, bars and hotels located within the "at-risk boundary" of a beach…’ Or, of course, maybe not. While we are at The Mirror, here’s Sundays item: ‘Brits in Spain horrified at booze price hikes putting resorts beyond budget for summer hols’. A survey on the same page asks ‘What do you dread most about going on holiday?’ The answers include ‘Disgusting food’; ‘Unhygienic swimming-pools’; ‘Pickpockets’; ‘Horrible hotels’ and, of course ‘Too many tourists’.

EUvsDisinfo looks at the larger picture. ‘When looking at narratives, often one of the tell-tale signs of disinformation is the attempt to skew the public perception of any given issue by introducing tendentious claims, removing context, and introducing bizarre falsities. In other words, telling a false story’. They list some of the English-language false news-sites maintained by the Russian disinformation services. 

From Sur in English here. ‘The British tabloids. From an exceptional anecdote they build a negative story full of generalisations about the "risks" of travelling to Spain. To Benidorm, to the Canaries, Málaga, Barcelona, Mallorca. Our columnist Juan Carlos Viloria hits back’. 

From El Español’s news-letter: ‘Our mission is to contribute to the progress of a freer society. We do this by publishing truthful, rigorous and relevant information for our readers, with a fair, independent and plural approach’. Although or course, not always.

‘Isabel Díaz Ayuso also considered resigning due to the attacks on her family but did not make it public. The persecution of her parents, her brother and her nephew (and her boyfriend?) led her to open a period of reflection and consider whether it was worth her while continuing in politics’. ECM brings us this story here

Perhaps a late item from Brussels will start to smooth things down. From elDiario.es here: ‘The EU will oblige the media to publish details over any institutional advertising. The European media regulation will soon come into force, with aims to protect their independence, but also imposes a series of obligations regarding transparency’. All media outlets will need to publish a full list of their owners and investors. The final law comes into effect in August 2025. The European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) (in English) here

There are a couple of sites whose only  job is to check for fake news, Maldita and Newtral.

‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’. A. J. Liebling. Found here.

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Ecology:

Trouble at Holaluz (a budget energy company). From El Periódico de la Energía here: ‘Holaluz's management team raises its salary by an average of 20% while laying off 300 employees and quintupling its losses. The company has increased its salaries by more than 6 million euros while getting rid of 38% of its workforce’. 

From Sur in English here: ‘37% of people in Andalucía have no way of cooling their homes in summer. The percentage of the population without thermal comfort in their houses is four points higher than ten years ago’ (me included!). 

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Various: 

From La Razón here: ‘Presidential contender Donald Trump already knows how much he will ask NATO partners in order for the US to defend them (and for Spain it is a fortune). He wants to pressure partners to contribute 3% of GDP, well above the 2% committed now. Spain barely reaches 1.2%’. 

Students at a number of Spanish universities are now organizing pro-Palestine protests and sit-ins. Besides Valencia, these are happening currently in Barcelona, Madrid, Euskadi and Seville. The Minister Diana Morant says “I am proud of our students who show critical thinking and transmit it to society”. The PP spokesperson Borja Sémper says that the students are merely pawns of Hamas. The students say – it’s not about politics, it’s about human rights. 

From Infovaticana here. The Archbishop of Oviedo Jesús Sanz isn’t sold on the idea of more immigrants: "In Spain there is not room for everyone and we have the right and duty to set our limits".

‘The use of pebbles in exterior and interior flooring was very common throughout Spain from the mountains right down to the coast. Traditionally different shapes and colours were inlaid into a lime and sand based mixture to create patterns and a solid breathable floor. The permutations of designs were endless, from ultra-basic in humble dwellings to incredibly intricate motifs in mosques and palaces. Today you can still find whole streets of them, especially in Andalucía…’ Taken from an article at Up a Mountain in Spain here.

 ...

See Spain: 

Fascinating Spain takes us on a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunts across the country here.

Trendencias tells readers of a great place to eat in Andalucía – the little-known town of Priego in Córdoba (something to do with their olive oil, apparently). 

 ...

Finally: 

Here on YouTube is Portugal’s Mariza with Mãe.

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